by Dean Kallas, Grocery Category Manager
I remember trying my first Nature’s Path product like it was yesterday. It was the late 90s, and I was living out in Portland, Oregon, working as a grocery stocker at the Nature’s Fresh Northwest store in Lake Oswego. One night, I helped Danny Glover find the popcorn in the grocery aisles, but that is a story for another day. There was a damaged box of Nature’s Path Honey’d Corn Flakes that our receiver wrote off and gave to me to try.
I was never a big fan of corn flakes growing up, but I did love Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops. I was curious what this Nature’s Path cereal would taste like, so I went home that day, poured a bowl and added some milk. Just then, my brother Mike called me long distance from Milwaukee. I was so excited to talk to him, that I completely lost track of the flakes drenched in milk. When the call ended nearly an hour later, I remembered the bowl of cereal, which had by this time been steeping for quite awhile.
I figured the flakes would be terribly soggy by now, but at least they were free. Then something happened that I did not expect; I tried the Honey’d Corn Flakes to see just how bad they were (after the milk bath), and they were still, surprisingly, really sturdy. I was in slight shock at just how well they had stood up and they were super tasty on top of it all!
I got it in my mind that day that Nature’s Path was doing something very special with the food they produced. Knowing very little about the company, I speculated that it must be the organically grown Canadian grains (the package said they were from British Columbia after all), and proper stewardship of the land that produced this miracle product. The organic foods I had tasted up until that point, were far superior in flavor than their conventional counterparts and usually more nutritious, from a micronutrient perspective. I was hooked to learn more about the methodology behind their cultivation and gain a better understanding on how things fit together.
Driven by Passion
It is still that passion that drives me today. It was with this mind-set that I ventured forth, with two of my co-workers, this past October, to tour the Nature’s Path Sussex plant. The plant is right outside of Milwaukee, and it promised to be an interesting tour with a potential viewing of some toaster pastry production.
They produce a wide array of their organic products there: bars (both cereal and granola), cereals, oatmeal, and toaster pastries. They also produce a line of organic tortilla chips called Que Pasa. These tortilla chips are made from organic stone ground corn, and Nature’s Path, which owns Que Pasa, is onto something in my humble opinion.
Visiting the plant was a real treat for me, as it was the original home of Tombstone Pizza, before they were purchased by Kraft Foods in 1986. Nature’s Path has really done something wonderful here—reviving and renewing this old workshop, and now they have an organic production facility that is local. They also have an amazing team of people working there that help keep things rolling. It is obvious they take pride in the food they make.
The ingredients they use are organic, and most of their grains are grown by farmers that have worked with them for many years. Crop rotation and grazing have helped keep their lands fertile. In fact, some of these organic farms often out-produce their conventional counterparts in drought years. Why? The soil is alive and has good tilth, so it can retain more moisture.
Nature’s Path, which is family-run, knows a lot about keeping the soil healthy. Their founder’s dad was a farmer and he used to say, “Always leave the earth better than you found it.” The company has grown quite a bit over the past 20 years and can be found in many retail chain stores, yet it remains just as committed to this mission. They have proven that one can successfully scale-up production of organic foods and keep competitive, yet still have a heart, and put people and our shared planet first.